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Community meeting addresses bills passed, citizens' concerns

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LAS CRUCES - At the second of four community meetings held around the county, state Sen. Jeff Steinborn and state Rep. Nathan Small, both D-Doña Ana, talked about the 2019 legislative session and bills that were passed during the session and became law this month, and they listened to local citizens’ questions and concerns about more than a dozen issues.

Steinborn, Small and state Rep. Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez, D-Grant, Sierra, Doña Ana, held the meetings July 15-18 in Las Cruces, Doña Ana and Hatch.

The July 16 meeting at the Doña Ana County Government Center was attended by about 75 people, including County Commissioner Manuel Sanchez, County Manager Fernando Macias, Assistant County Manager Chuck McMahon, Flood Commission Director John Gwynne and South-Central Regional Transit District Executive Director David Armijo.

Topics raised at the two-hour meeting included abandoned buildings, state retirement plans, child abuse, birth records, health care, produced water (an oil and gas byproduct), air quality, the 2020 census and banking.

Flores, appointed to the District 5 seat on the Doña Ana County Commission after Commissioner Karen Trujillo resigned in January to become secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department, said the county received more money from the legislature during the 2020 session than ever before. Part of the funding will help the county expand transit service to the northern part of the county, he said.

McMahon said other funds will help with county parks, drainage projects, fire station improvements, community centers, sidewalks and street lighting and upgrades at the county Jetport in Santa Teresa.

Gwynne said the county got an additional $1.5 million to help pay for improvements to Hatch Dam.

Steinborn said bills he introduced at the 2019 session that were passed and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham included creating an interagency pharmaceuticals purchasing council that he said could save the state $100 million; creating a state Outdoor Recreation Office; creating a tax credit for film and television production that takes place in Las Cruces and other areas outside of Santa Fe and Albuquerque; and banning coyote-killing contests. The legislature also enacted same-day voter registration, Steinborn said, which allows voters to register up through Election Day.

Small, who, like Martinez, is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the 2019 legislature “stopped the nonsense (to) address the unique challenges and opportunities” in public education; created a state Ethics Commission; protected water resources; passed the Energy Transition Act, which he said would increase renewable energy requirements and lower the cost of solar, wind and geothermal energy; and value-added agriculture.

Small said lawmakers also enacted legislation prohibiting the exclusion from coverage of some pre-existing health conditions. Small said he also introduced the Surprise Billing Protection Act, which unanimously passed the state House but died in the state Senate. A similar bill which was introduced in the Senate, passed both houses and was signed by the governor will “prohibits nonparticipating (healthcare) providers from knowingly submitting a surprise bill to a covered person,” according to the state Legislative Finance Committee analysis of the bill.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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